How to avoid COVID-19 and the flu during the holiday season

A double whammy of COVID-19 and the flu hits California, sickening residents — some so severe that they required hospitalization — disrupting daily life and threatening to upset vacation plans.

But while both diseases are spreading widely, officials are stressing that Californians are not powerless. There are steps everyone can take to better protect themselves and those around them.

Here are some tips:

Get your recordings

Vaccines are available for COVID-19 and the flu – and officials say rolling up your sleeve is an effective way to ward off serious illnesses.

The updated COVID-19 booster shot became available in September, but most people didn’t get it. According to the California Department of Health and Human Services, 19.4% of eligible residents statewide received the supplemental dose.

The new bivalent booster is formulated to protect not only against the original coronavirus strain, but also against the Omicron subvariants that have dominated the nation for much of the year – namely BA.5.

“Getting this updated bivalent vaccine is the most important thing you can do to ensure that immunity is up to date and that you can fight the virus that’s out there,” said Dr. Ashish Jha, the White House COVID-19 response coordinator.

Among UC San Francisco staff and students, 1 in 100 people who received the updated COVID-19 booster has since contracted coronavirus infection. But among those who didn’t get the vaccine, 1 in 20 is infected, said Dr. Ralph Gonzales, an associate dean of UC San Francisco, recently at an on-campus town hall.

“If you have a good strain match with the booster and the vaccine, you actually prevent a whole lot of infections,” Gonzales said.

It’s not too late to get your primary COVID vaccine batch either. In October, unvaccinated Californians were twice as likely to contract COVID-19 and hospitalized and three times more likely to die from the disease than their vaccinated counterparts, state data show.

The flu shot is also very well matched to this season’s circulating flu strains, officials say.

“Because any case of influenza can be serious, especially when it spreads to people who are at high risk – and that includes older adults and young children – we ask that you know that it is not too late, getting vaccinated against seasonal flu,” said Barbara Ferrer, director of public health for Los Angeles County.

Officials also point out that residents can receive both the flu vaccine and the COVID-19 vaccine at the same time.

“It’s really easy. It’s absolutely safe. It works out. Their immune system is very good at coping with two vaccines at once,” Jha said Friday.

Wash your hands, cover your cough and sneeze

It sounds simple but it’s true. Many viral diseases, including influenza and respiratory syncytial virus – or RSV – are spread through touch, e.g. B. by contact with a contaminated surface and then with your face.

“Spend at least 20 seconds scrubbing with soap and water, or use hand sanitizer if you don’t have access to soap and water,” Ferrer said.

It’s also a good idea to disinfect frequently touched surfaces, Gonzales said.

It’s also a good idea to avoid touching your face as much as possible. Flu can be transmitted by touching a virus-contaminated surface and then touching the hand, eye, or mouth.

“Very good studies have shown that if we can redouble our efforts to be vigilant about this, our chances of staying flu-free increase,” Gonzales said.

The corona virus, on the other hand, is mainly transmitted through the air – namely when an infected person coughs or sneezes. That’s why it’s important to cover your face with your elbow or a tissue when you sneeze or cough.

Tell sick people to stay at home

It’s a shame to have events cancelled, especially after the disruptions of the past two years, but even a tingling throat or inclement weather should be a loud warning sign to stay home.

Do a quick test before an event

A rapid coronavirus test can help identify asymptomatic people who are infected and contagious before attending a gathering. The strategy isn’t foolproof, but it can help—especially if the test is taken as close to the start of an event as possible.

Take social events outside or open a window

Outdoor events have a lower risk of virus transmission. It is better to offer drinks and food outside if possible. Improving ventilation by opening doors and windows or using an air purifier can also help.

Consider masking

Officials and experts say wearing a mask in indoor public spaces can reduce the risk of infection from both COVID-19 and other respiratory illnesses by blocking the airway particles that can spread disease.

“Wearing a mask in indoor public spaces, among other safety measures, effectively slows the spread of respiratory viruses, which make children and the elderly very ill,” according to the California Department of Health.

Masking can also “significantly slow the spread and protect babies and young children who lack immunity and are too young to wear a mask themselves,” according to the department wrote on Twitter in this week.

Sleep, exercise and manage stress

As Gonzales noted, “During the holiday season…we tend to get very busy with work, and with this surge we have a lot of inactivity and stress.”

“And what we do know from studies of pre-med students and marathon runners is that stress — whether mental or physical — increases your risk of contracting respiratory viruses. And that risk increases two to three times,” Gonzales said.

He suggested practicing these good health habits:

• Get plenty of sleep.
• Be physically active.
• Manage your stress.
• Drink enough fluids.
• Eat nutritious food.

Vitamin C might help

Vitamin C might help fight off infection.

Gonzales said he’s a long-distance runner, and 50 to 70% of the time that long-distance runners get colds and flu is after major events.

“Randomized studies show that 1,000 milligrams of vitamin C once a day can help cut that risk in half,” Gonzales said. “And then there are also studies of vitamin C in people who were sleep deprived and under a lot of stress before final exams to show that it helps with that too.”

https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2022-12-11/how-to-avoid-covid-19-and-flu-during-holiday-season How to avoid COVID-19 and the flu during the holiday season

Alley Einstein

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